SWTOR Companions: Prospects For Fan Writing

May 29, 2010

Note: I know I’m a little later than usual when it comes to discussing the Star Wars: The Old Republic Friday update, but reading the new information on companions as well as the IGN interview really gave me a lot to think about. Before I continue though, a word of warning: I didn’t realize there was going to be so much gushing and girly-ness when I wrote this. I guess I’m feeling giddy because I’m going away for the weekend.

I think a lot of people are concerned that the companions in Star Wars: The Old Republic will take on too much of an important role, and start discouraging grouping and social behavior. Frankly, I’m not too concerned about that. Granted, if anyone can make the idea of playing with AI companions seem more enthralling than playing with real people, it would be Bioware’s talented writing team. But personally, I’m into MMOs to play with others, so having companions isn’t going to stop me from being social.

Instead, what I’ve actually been mulling over, are the prospects that SWTOR companions will have for roleplaying and fan lore. This may be a somewhat esoteric subject, but I’ve encountered enough fan writings on other peoples’ MMO blogs to dare hope that I’m not the only one excited about the possibilities.

RP isn’t something I usually do openly in-game, but I am constantly spinning out stories in my head and on occasion I will write them out. Long time readers of this blog will remember my strange attachment to Sleer, my Vulcan science officer in Star Trek Online. Or maybe it’s not so strange after all. I am reminded of a Nerf Herder lyric here (a band whose name is a Star Wars reference! Oh, how nicely this post is coming together…):

You don’t want a boyfriend
What you want is Mr. Spock…

Okay, so I admit I have a crush on Spock, and that Sleer is like my Spock from The Original Series. There are similarities between the two of them in the STO stories in my head (which I will never, ever, EVER put to paper because they’re just far too embarrassing). Sleer is my First Officer, he’s half-human, and I even dressed him up in TOS garb in-game. At the same time, I’ve also given him his own unique character traits and personality (or at least as far as a Vulcan can have a personality) to flesh out his relationship with my character T’Androma.

"Dammit, Sleer, pay attention to me!"

What can I say? I am a self-confessed mushy romantic. I read trashy Harlequins, watch weepy chick flicks, and “ooh” and “aww” over real life love stories. And so when it comes to games, it’s inevitable — whether it’s role-playing or writing back-stories for my character, I will inject a bit of romance.

And that’s the beauty of Cryptic’s character creator — they’ve given us a chance to work with a blank slate, to customize our characters and companions and write in their back-stories however we please. My only regret, however, is that other than them popping up every so often to tell you the status of your mission, there is absolutely zero interaction you can have with your bridge officers.

SWTOR companions, on the other hand, will contribute to your adventures in much greater ways. They are given motivations, personalities, traits like “honorable” or “roguish” or “flirtatious”. Hardly a blank slate, but their personalities won’t be set in stone either. Apparently, players can change their companions’ attitudes and moral leanings through an “Affection system” much like the one we saw in Dragon Age: Origins. I’m super excited about this. It means your interactions with your companions will be dynamic, even if the end results aren’t exactly what you had in mind.

Meet Vette, one of the Sith Warrior's known associates. I'm betting that she's probably romanceable.

Still, I think this will give roleplayers a whole different realm to work with. For the most part, it seems choosing SWTOR companions are about tactical options and strategies, but I have to admit, I’m pretty psyched about the fact you can romance them too. From Carth to Alistair to Garrus, I do love and use certain characters a lot just because they happen to be my Bioware boyfriends.

*mild spoilers ahead*

For example, I am reminded of my first playthrough of DA:O where I chose Alistair to fight beside my human noble in the final boss battle in the Dwarven arena. Amidst roaring applause, I asked him to kiss me after our victory, right there in the middle of the ring. The result on screen was cinematic perfection, the kind of scene you would see in epic romance movies after the hero and heroine has conquered some force that kept them from being together.

Yeah, I know that’s really corny and nerdy so feel free to make fun of me, but the only thing that pissed me off was that no one else was in the room at the time to witness that awesome moment. The point is, I already manage to pull this sort of thing with single-player RPGs, and I believe the nature of MMOs will make it even easier to roleplay beyond the main story line. I’m purely speculating here, but I’m guessing there will be fewer cases of finality, like the kind you’d find in DA:O where if you just so happened to be a poor little city elf, Alistair dumping your ass pretty much meant the end of the romance.

*spoilers over*

I’m sure the interactions with SWTOR companions will be heavily scripted affairs as well, but I think we all can still have our fun with them (and if you can get over the possibility of walking into a highly populated area with a few dozen versions of your companion standing in front of you). I am very much looking forward to shaping my companions through dialogue, building relationships with them, and expanding on the stories that come out of it. When the time comes, I can only imagine the RP perspectives we’ll be getting from all over the blogosphere.

Even though you might not have the complete freedom to build your team from the ground up the way you want, I think it’s a small price to pay to have companions with elaborate personalities that will actually interact with you. Or, you know, at the very least, acknowledge you’re alive when you walk into a room.


  1. Ahhh, I just started playing DA:O a bit since getting my new (used) computer, and it seems like you’ve got a few spoilers in this post! I tried to skip over them 😉

    If you’re a female city elf, is Alistair romanceable, though? I’m not exactly sure what you meant with your comment on that.

    Oh yeah, and I still haven’t installed Mass Effect 2 (via Impulse) yet, lol, so I’m still having to keep my eye out for spoilers on that. I’m still working through my replay through ME1 with a female (mostly Renegade) character 😛 but with, like, 4 times better graphics settings than on my old Dell laptop (what I originally played ME1 on 🙂 )

    • Good catch, I went back and put in some mild spoiler warning tags 🙂 And I’m not going to elaborate, since you’re just playing DA:O now 🙂 Enjoy! I know I did…the overall tone is much darker though, so just be prepared!

      And re: ME2, you gotta get on that! 😀

      • Ha ha, thanks 😛

  2. you weirded me out when you start talking about romancing carth, alistair, and garrus. ewwww.

    With all this talk of companions on the interwebs, one of the things I’ve noticed is peoples disbelief that bioware would dare to put companions in an online game…

    Because they don’t have companions in every single one of their other games? And we all know what terrible experiences those are…

    I don’t know. people are reacting to it on principle, rather than on history or past experience.

    anyway, I get pretty attached to my companions too.

    • I think people react that way because they associate companions with their single player games, which propagates the idea of anti-socializing an MMO…like you said, on principle.

  3. Sounds like a lot of fun to me. And like you said, plenty of story fodder.

  4. I have mixed feelings about the companions in SW:TOR. Yeah, it’s a cool idea ‘n all but why are they necessary? Isn’t the point of playing a MMO that the *other* players become your companions? Seems strange to me! It’s like Bioware are just making a SRPG that happens to be played online…

    • I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how these companions will work, like if they will actually support the player as well as Bioware has claimed. If the AI is decent, then I can see some people relying on their companions alone, essentially just soloing all the content. But I think people who are hardcore soloers would be doing that anyway, with or without companions.

      For me, I’ll probably use companions only when I have to…I can see myself treating them more as story fodder than anything though, to borrow Rowan’s words.

  5. I really hope that they take a cue from DA:O with this. Finally BioWare started getting away from the angsty-dead-wife-guy (Carth, Sky, Thane) in that game.

    My only problem is trying to explain to my beloved game-buddy just why my character is having a romance with an NPC in addition to his character. Well… maybe not. Tough choices! (And I’m glad that he doesn’t read this blog. :p )

    • Oh boy, Carth was sooooooo whiny. He really confused me too…seeing as the first thing he did after we crash landed on Taris was to flirt with me. Then for the next 30 hours of game play he played all emo and hard to get. What is up with that?! LOL

      And I’ll definitely be romancing my SWTOR companionis…my husband will just have to live with it 😛

      • NOOooooo, poor hubby. He has to compete with digital fantasy characters :S

  6. Man, I am not at all worried about companions in SWTOR. We’re going to have to see how they’re implemented, but I have faith that it’ll be fun.

    From some of the footage I’ve seen, it looks like some missions are oriented toward two-player affairs (like that footage of the Sith warship being boarded by Republic soldiers). I wonder if it’ll be a choice between taking on a second real person, or having a companion come along.

    I’m fine with either. I’ve got a really good friend who I’m looking forward to playing the game with, and that would be mad fun to run missions with him. Alternatively, taking a PC-controlled companion would ensure that some random newb wouldn’t fuck up my gaming experience…

    • I’m going to guess it’ll be a mixture of both…my only concern is AI, but given how Wynn healed me like a champ in dragon age, I think prospects are good!

  7. So, my BioWare companion stories are… varied.

    KOTOR: I played a lightside woman. I didn’t romance Garth – he was alright (I didn’t hate him the way other people did), but I totally thought that Canderous was much cooler.

    KOTOR II: Beat it as a lightside male. I did romance up the Echani Handmaiden, who I thought was cool but not necessarily memorable.
    I also played some as a female Jedi, and I remember thinking the Disciple Mical was cool, because he was basically an adventuring historian! And, well, Atton is basically Carth + Han Solo, so he was both completely badass and surprisingly frightening. (Man, GeeCee, I can’t believe you’ve not played this game! Whenever you do get around to it, seek out one of the fan-made ‘completion’ mods, that restores alot of the content cut from launch.)

    Mass Effect: I played a female engineer, who romanced no one. I flirted a little bit with Kaidan, and a little with Liara, but the speed of their romancing really put me off (“Let be friends” “You’re cute!” “Let’s bang!”), and I stayed single. I really wanted a relationship with Joker, or Doctor Chakwas. I know, strange? I thought things moved quick, but I do appreciate the maturity of ME when compared with KOTOR – I think BioWare has grown more comfortable with their relationship story telling.

    I’ve not started ME2, but mmmmaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnn I wish I’d played a guy, cause Yvonne Strahovski – I mean Miranda – Is really hot. But I’m glad to hear that Garrus is romancable (he’s so f-ing awesome!), and Thane seems pretty cool, too.

    Man, here I am, a guy, seriously thinking about my romancable options. WHAT HAVE I COME TO

    • I’ve finally started playing Mass Effect 2, as of yesterday.

      Two thoughts:

      1) THE GRAPHICS ARE SO MUCH BETTER! And it runs at the same framerate, I think, too! (I’m talking on the PC, of course)

      2) It feels like a console game. It’s really arcadey. I don’t like that. But I guess I’ll trade the graphics upgrade for that weird feeling of consolitis 🙂

    • @AH yeah I need to get my hands on maybe an original Xbox copy just so I can play KOTORII. And when it comes to relationship story telling, nothing could beat Dragon Age for me…and the voice acting was superb too. I started wishing Alistair was like a real person.

      @Paulman I remember thinking ME1’s graphics were so nice when I first played…going back to it after seeing ME2 was hard though, because like you said they’ve managed to improve them even more.

      • I don’t know how I’m going to play Dragon Age: Origins. I already don’t feel that much appeal because its graphics are kind of… strange, and that was before playing ME2! That, plus your character never actually speaks in that game.

        I think I’m going to play a human male mage, though.

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